Originally created 03/19/03

Woods shows Howell respect



ORLANDO, Fla. - Don't be surprised to see Tiger Woods team with Augusta native Charles Howell in mid-November's Presidents Cup match-play tournament.

Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked golfer and a three-time Masters Tournament champion, said Tuesday that he and Howell would make a good combination.

The format of the Presidents Cup calls for two-man team matches the first two days, followed by singles matches the final day.

"We're both young enough, and I think we both have the same mentality to how we play, how we approach the game of golf," Woods said. "I think it would be a lot of fun to play with Charles. I've played with him in a couple practice rounds and needle him all the time. I thoroughly enjoy playing with him. I think it would be a lot of fun if we do get paired together."

The Presidents Cup, a match-play event pitting a U.S. team against an international team, is played in alternating years from the Ryder Cup. It is scheduled for Nov. 21-23 in George, South Africa.

For the pairing to happen, Howell will have to maintain his position in the Presidents Cup standings. The top 10 make the team, and the final player is a captain's pick. Howell is currently ninth.

Woods has an overwhelming lead in the Presidents Cup point standings. However, he has not committed to playing in the event.

As usual, Woods is the center of attention at this week's Bay Hill Invitational.

Should he win, Woods would be only the third player in PGA Tour history to win the same tournament four times in a row, and the first in 73 years. Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship from 1924-27, and Gene Sarazen won the Miami Open four times in a row, with his final win coming in 1930.

"I like my chances because I like to compete," said Woods, who won by four shots in 2000 and 2002 and by one shot in 2001.

"I've never had that opportunity, but I think after doing it three times, I think it gets easier," said Ernie Els, the world's No. 2-ranked player, who is squaring off with Woods for the first time this season in a stroke-play event.

In three weeks, Woods can make some more history. He'll be bidding to become the first golfer to win three consecutive Masters titles.

Woods already knows the tournament will have a different feel because of the national controversy over Augusta National Golf Club's all-male membership. The theory that no one will remember who won the 2003 Masters, if Woods doesn't, might not be that far off.

"I think it's become not just about a golf tournament anymore," Woods said. "I think that's where it's gotten to now. It would be great if it would all go away, and we could just play a golf tournament again, but that's not the reality of it. This year, when we all get there, it's going to be interesting for all of us to see what happens."

Woods, who has said he would like to see the club take on a female member, said the Masters has been tarnished "to a small extent" by the club's position.

"But it's brought about more of an awareness (to the issue) that wasn't there before," Woods said. "I think that's the important thing about it - that we are all aware that it still happens on our sport, and trying to rectify that doesn't happen overnight. Obviously, that's being proven."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.